TLS praises Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son


More praise for Adam Johnson‘s The Orphan Master’s Son, which we wrote about here and here and here and here.  This time the kudos are from Kelly Falconer, the literary editor of the Asia Literary Review.  She is also a former Korean linguist who served in the U.S. military as a Korean cryptologic analyst. The review is in the June 15 Times Literary Supplement, which landed in my Stanford mailbox today.

Most of the review recounts the storyline of the shapeshifting hero, Jun Do.  Falconer concludes:

Author, author! (Photo: L.A. Cicero)

In Korean, jun do is a homonym and Jun Do himself embodies all of its various meanings, including topsy-turviness, as befits Alice in Wonderland absurdity of life in North Korea; a transmitter, of images and the truth, revealed with the “simplest answer”; a leader, unwittingly or not; inversion, as he takes on the identity of Commander Ga and also changes Ga into someone who is good; an advance on payment and someone who will have great difficulties, for Jun Do is fated to pay in advance for something he will gain later – freedom.

Adam Johnson … visited North Korea in 2007 as part of his research for the book, which is infused with subtly elided allusions both biblical and literary.  But he is never high-handed; instead, his assured sense of playfulness tricks readers into letting down their guard and unexpectedly taking in the most shocking details that increase the intensity of the tale.  Johnson’s deft hand gives us an accomplished, strangely entertaining and thoughtful insight into the oppressive, brutal and otherwise opaque regime in North Korea, where to see is not always to believe.

It’s always a pleasure to repeat any praise of Adam.  He is a warm and quirky and wonderful man.


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